Good news! African American students today are just as capable, talented and eager as other students. The unfortunate news is that the information that they need in order to enhance their chances of being admitted is not always given or admission counselors do not understand it. Three initiatives are essential for the future of African American students' admittance to college:
First, as an admissions director, support early college awareness programs for African American students and their parents. In other words, broaden your recruitment efforts to include middle school students as early as seventh and eighth grade. The objective should be to educate these students about the importance of challenging themselves in high school so that they will be better prepared for the rigors of college. Sponsor an early college awareness night in their community or a day on your campus. Both students and parents need to know that college admittance begins with high school success.
Second, as an admissions director, educate your admissions counselors about the non-cognitives, as well as the cognitives, which determine college success for African American students. Whereas, a student with a high grade point average and test scores may have what it takes to be admitted to college, it does not necessarily equate to successful retention and ultimately graduation. Realize that often times, the non-cognitives (extracurricular activities, leadership, overcoming obstacles, motivation and interest, persistence, recommendations, awards and honors) for African American students, is just as telling as high GPAs and test scores. These students, combined with academics, will be more engaged and involved in campus life, which in turn will lessen their attrition rate.
Finally, once these students have been admitted based on early awareness, cognitives as well as non-cognitives, then it is time to use their academic and college experiences to help with the recruitment of future African American students. They are called mentors/ambassadors. Use them! They will be your best representatives. Involve them in high school visits, college fairs, phone-a-thons, campus visits, panel discussions, etc. Let them share their story so that prospective students see that college is realistic and attainable and that no one factor will hinder their chances.
MELDA POTTS Coordinator of African American Student Outreach, Assistant Director of Admissions, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill. …